Oxford Bridge Sidewalk Closed for Repair
The provincial Department of Public Works ordered the closure of a main pedestrian corridor in Oxford this week.
Residents on the South side — that’s the part of town across the River Philip and “the Flat”— are looking at a “long time to repair”. On Tuesday the province ordered the town to close off access to the sidewalk on the north side of the River Philip Bridge.
CAO Linda Cloney tells Six Rivers News that there is currently “no timeline as to how long this would be out of commission.” Cloney says the Province’s initial assessment of the problem is that the entire pedestrian span on that side of the bridge may need to be replaced.
There is another sidewalk on the south side of the bridge, although the sidewalk infrastructure leading to and from the bridge on that side — with far less traffic — has not been a priority in the past. Thats now changed.
Cloney says the Town immediately brought in the Accessibility Advisory Committee to look at the problem and work on solutions that will improve pedestrian safety as they now have to cross Water Street to detour around the closure.
Oxford’s Public Works crew has already resurfaced a section of the sidewalk from the corner of Waverley Street to the start of the up-river side of the River Philip bridge walkway, while on the other side of the bridge, a new crosswalk will be added closer to the bridge with signage.
Public Works modified the curb to remove the step-down to the roadway so that persons in wheelchairs or with other mobility challenges can cross the street safely.
At this point, the Town is not planning to provide crossing guard services for the new crosswalk at the bridge.
Parents whose children walk that path to school may wish to contact the Town office (902-447-2170) for a number to call to see whether their child/children can be bussed.
Cloney has heard from at least one town facility concerned about the closure and the impact on pedestrians.
Mayor Greg Henley reached out to MLA Tory Rushton, who facilitated contact with the Department of Public Works.
As with all municipalities, an agreement on bridge maintenance and repair exists between the province and the town. This bridge has been the subject of public concern over the past year, with conditions of that north side walkway prompting a short closure earlier in the summer. Repairs were made, but there was no indication of further concern.
In August, Oxford resident Brenda Robinson noticed the condition of the bridge while walking her dog on the bank of the River Philip. What she saw prompted her to write to the provincial Department of Public Works. In a response received by mid-August and shared on social media, the Public Works Area Manager for Cumberland County, Adam Cameron, noted: "Level 1 Inspections are carried out every year by local maintenance staff, and while the Level 1 Inspections completed for 2023 show that these bridges are in overall good condition, the Department of Public Works (DPW) is aware of, and has received recent concerns similar to those outlined in your correspondence that there are maintenance items to be addressed. The structure on Water Street would certainly benefit from sidewalk improvements including grade improvements at the approaches. This work will be prioritised along with other maintenance in the area.”
Several years ago, corrosion of the north side pedestrian sidewalk on the River Philip bridge prompted extensive repairs to the walking surface, and it was expected at the time that future work would be undertaken — which has not been the case.
In 2019, then-Nova Scotia Auditor General Michael Pickup released a report stating that the province wasn’t getting the job done on bridge maintenance and repairs.
The report indicated over 600 of the province’s 4,200 bridges were in poor condition four years ago, and needed to be fixed or replaced. In a follow-up report by current A-G Kim Adair released in April of this year, the Department of Public Works suggested that a new “Bridge Management Software” system to track the condition of bridges would be installed by the end of December.
In January of this year, Public Works Minister Kim Masland announced more than $1-billion in new spending on highways, bridges and ferry services, with 31 bridges set for replacement or ‘rehabilitation’. It’s not known whether Oxford’s River Philip bridge is on that list.
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